As others have begun and I will here reiterate, evil is not a created thing. Evil does not exist and has no being. Evil is always a privation of what ought to be. All being is good metaphysically or ontologically. For all being is either the Creator or His creature(Gen 1). For instance a sword is not evil. Even the stroke of the sword that chops your head off is not evil in its being-in fact, unless its a "good" stroke, it will not chop your head off.
Where is the evil? It is in the will, the choice, the intent, the movement of the soul, which puts a wrong order into the physical world of things and acts: the order between the sword and the innocent's neck rather than a murderer's neck or an innocent's bonds.
Even the devil is good in his being. He is a good thing gone bad-in fact, a very good thing gone very bad. To be morally bad you must be ontologically good.
Thanks for this long and thought out response. I've heard this evil as a privation of good argument, and it doesn't impress me for reasons stated above.
Just because you weren't "impressed" by it hardly makes it untrue. 2+2=4 isn't really impressive to anyone, yet it is true regardless of how you feel about it.
Is evil then merely subjective? No, for if it were a subjective illusion, then the fact that we fear this mere illusion would be really evil. Evil IS real, but it is not a real thing. It is disordered love, disordered will. It is a wrong relationship, a nonconformity between our will and God's will.
I see no reason to think that evil is anything more than a description.
How do you know?
Never mind, we have to properly define what good is before we can have any insight as to how evil is a privation of what is good. I'll treat with that in a little bit...
Most importantly, God did not make evil, we did. That is the obvious point between Gen 1 & 3, the stories of God's good creation and humanity's evil Fall.
The origin of evil is sin and human free will. The immediate origin of suffering is nature, or rather the relationship between ourselves and nature. We stub our toe, or get the flu, or drown.
God creates us such that we could choose to be evil, and we did? And we are all implicated because of Adam and Eve? What did a baby do to choose being evil? What did a murderer do to choose a malicious personality and painful childhood? God could prevent these evils but doesn't. He need not compel us, only guide us. And not minimally, with scripture.
There are two objections here based on misunderstandings. The first has to do with the word you used when referring to the Fall: "implicated". You're still treating these principles such as "good" & "evil" or "law" and "justice" in the positive sense instead of the natural sense. It's like the question Plato posed to an objector, "Do the gods command a thing because it is pious, or is it pious because the gods command it?" The evil we choose to do has nothing to do with something placed upon us, it is a part of our nature-it was inherited. It is this fallen nature that we are born with. It is this nature that clouds our reason and darkens our intellect so that we see evil as something good and desireable. Instead of our reason directing our wills and subduing our passions we allow our passions to subdue our reason and dictate our wills. It is called concupiscience.
You assume the position that based on your experience people are generally good in their behavior. The fact is that people are not good in their behavior. People because of selfish longings and desires make bad decisions constantly; everything from adultry and murder to stealing office supplies from your work and lying to your wife on while on the cell phone about where you are at. We rationalize and justify our bad choices under various reasons yet these acts are evil. Even infants and toddlers selfishly desire their favorite toys even to the point of inflicting pain on their siblings. You have newborn babies screaming their heads off just so they can be given a bottle of formula. As parents we have love and pity for them and we endure it but the bottom line is that we are born as pure ids and superegos(to use Frued's terminology). The total domination of the self over others(be they things or even people) is the antithesis of love goodness.
As far as God, He is NOT a tyrant. He could not make us do anything, not without violating our nature. God is absolute Truth so what you're suggesting-that God would contradict himself-is absurd. He does guide us; its called the human conscience which is the law of God(the law of Love) written on our hearts or that little "voice" we hear in ourselves that supports us when we do good or rebukes us when we do evil. This is also part of our nature. But sadly people, who continually make one evil decision after another, make it a constant habit to suppress and ignore that voice until it is no longer heard in themselves. Our consciences, like our intellects, must be informed to work properly. When you ignore your conscience and fail to inform it, you make it subject to your passions instead.
The second argument against God's "omnipotence" is the objection "If 'all things are possible with God,' then why didn't God create a world without sin?" That we already answered above.
Or to put it another way, omnipotence could not have created a world in which there was genuine human freedom and yet no possibility of sin, for our freedom includes the possibility of sin within its own meaning. Thus, even an omnipotent God cannot forcibly prevent sin without removing our freedom. The "cannot" does not mean that His power meets some obstacle outside Himself, but rather that "nonsense does not cease to be nonsense when we add the words 'God can' before it."(C.S.Lewis). This notion of God's omnipotence not extending to self-contradictions explains necessary physical evil as well as moral evil. Even omnipotence cannot avoid all physical evil if it creates a finite world that is not infinitely perfect. God wanted free creatures to love and that would choose to love Him, not robots. God is not a tyrant, He's a loving father.
Okay, so your view is that your God cannot create a world with free will and without evil. I'd say that's coherent, though it seems to me an omnipotent God could do much better. i.e. let murderers point the gun and then make the gun misfire. But God lets us have 100% free will, despite the innocents who suffer and the children who die. The value of free will under such a plan is lost to me.
Not without violating our nature. God is absolute Love as well as absolute Truth. These are one in Him because He is pure absolute Being("I Am He Who Is"). To put it simply if the gun misfired the will behind it simply would have looked for another gun. The misfire wouldn't change the will.
The value of free will has to do with Love. For love to be truly love it has to be totally free. But this love is not the generally mistaken modern notion of passionate love. The love that God wants is the highest form of love: the classic "agape"
-free and total self-giving love. We could not enjoy perfect love and blessedness unless were were fully free to choose it. We must be fully free to choose God and self-giving love or total selfishness and therefore not-God.
Remember, our faith places the eternal as obviously more important as the temporal-our souls are more important than our bodies. We don't believe that physical death is the end of the person, so neither is the death of innocents(although we can only assume their innocence-we have no real way of knowing who would choose God and who would not-only He can know) is the end of their existence. As far as any such people we pray for them and place them in His care and mercy with the confidence that He will judge them justly and mercifully.
If you think a world of mindless robots is more valuable than a world of people with free will then that is totally lost on me. I see such a mindset as the sad consequence of complacency living is a free country such as we have. There's no way I would trade the supposed total emination of evil(I say "supposed" because there is no way that you could presume that such a world you suppose would be free of evil) and remove from the world the millions of opportunities and experiences of total self-giving love
More specifically you fail to distinguish between two kinds of physical evil: (1) the imperfections, weaknesses, diseases, and deaths of nonhuman things, and (2) the suffering of human beings. The first is inherent in any finite, created world. Tornados are not evil in their being, they are the result of heat and pressure balancing themselves out within our atmosphere. Mosquitos look really attractive to other mosquitos.
I made this distinction earlier, but using the technical terminology of philosophy of religion. Moral evil vs. unnecessary suffering.
Note that I don't need humans at all to make this argument. Your God let tons of animals suffer in horrible ways before humans were around. That, to me, is not something a benevolent God allows. And they don't even have free will, by your account.
You're referring to pre-history and the comment begs the question. "Suffering" is a subjective emotion that can't you are applying to creatures which you assume
I find the objection a little vague and very presumptuous. It also follows from a false definition of God's goodness. I'll get to that later...
The second is the necessary consequence of sin. Human beings are body-soul(psycho-somatic) unities, our souls or psyches or personalities are our form and our bodies are our matter, much as in a poem the meaning is the form and the sounds and syllables are the matter. Once you grant this principle, it makes sense that if the soul becomes alienated from God by sin, the body will become alienated too, and experience pain and death as sin's inevitable consequences. These are not external, arbitrary punishments added on. Spiritual death(sin) and physical death go together because our spirits(souls, conciousness) and bodies go together.
This is kind of coherent, but requires assuming a lot about metaphysics. God is everywhere, are we ever away from him? Does physical distance make one more sinful? And, of course, there is no evidence of souls or anything like that, in the atheist viewpoint, generally.
Physical distance from God is irrelevent. Physical distance from those things that cause us to do evil can make all the difference.
And yes it does presume metaphysics and life after death. That could be the topic of another thread but I would quickly ask you here if there is not human soul how do you explain the ability of the human person(the subject) to objectify the body?
To help understand this think of three iron rings suspended from a magnet. The magnet is God; the first ring, the soul; the second ring, the body; the bottom ring, nature. As long as the sould stays in contact with God the magnetic life flows through the whole chain. But when the soul declares its independence from God, the whole chain falls. When the soul is separated from God, the body is separated from the soul-that is it dies-and also from nature-that is, it suffers. The soul's authority over the body is a delegated authority, as is humanity's authority over nature. When God the delegator is rejected, so is the authority He delegated. Thus both suffering and sin are traced back to man, not God.
A nice metaphor. How to back up the metaphysical claims it makes though?
In your response you're assuming materialism and demanding proof while you have yet to prove that materialism is the only truth. IOW what you're really saying that in matters of thought and intellect there really is nothing for your science to abstract from. That is a philosophical claim, not a scientific one. And it is a false claim at that.
Thirdly your idea of "omnibenevolence" or "goodness" confuses what is you think is "good" for what is "kind". Kindness is the will to free the loved one from pain. Sometimes, to be good is not to be kind. Dentists, surgeons, athletic trainers, teachers, and parents all know that.
You use examples of people who cause *some* suffering or struggle to justify greater good. Letting millions of children die of starvation and malaria doesn't teach them a greater lesson. The analogy fails in this way. Parents let their children get a small cut, God lets his children suffer and die. You can't justify their choices to sit back in the same way.
But your neglecting to ask the right questions and instead you place the blame on God because its an easy out for your atheism. Why are those children dying of starvation? Is it because of God, or because of a greedy warlord or tribal leader wanting to starve out another tribe who they have been at war with for centuries?
You ask, "why didn't God do anything"? I ask you, and God will ask all of us if we dare ask Him the same question you do, "why didn't [b]YOU
(or me, or anyone else) do anything?"[/b] Why weren't WE his presence to the world? Why did we decide to sit on the sidelines and allow our cowardess and laziness to rule us even though we saw the evil, knew it was evil, and yet did nothing to stop it!?
All I can say is that God only permits the evil and suffering He does to bring about greater good. Its not an easy answer, it takes a lot of faith, but its the only answer we, or Job, or anyone else, will get.
Fourthly your argument about the amount of evil which you say disproves God. My question is this: How much evil would be too much? Would a Holocaust of six million disprove God but not a Holocaust of six thousand? How do you know how much evil is too much? You seem to assume implicitly that since you cannot understand why so much evil is permitted, it could not possibly be permitted by God; that is you assume that only the evil which you can understand as necessary or justified is compatible with God. But if only such evil did exist, it would be strong evidence against God. For if there is a God, His wisdom and ways must be infinitely superior to ours ,and we will not understand all His ways. That was the only answer Job got, and he was satisfied, because Job was a good philosopher. This is not blind fideism but eminent reasonableness. Who are we, the palyers on the stage, to tell off the author of the play? We cannot explain the particular evils we see, but we can explain why we can't explain them.
How much evil would be too much for an omnibenevolent God? Since we can come up with any definition of omnibenevolent we want, let me just ask instead, how much evil would be too much for a God that is generally good, loving, should be respected and so on. I would say that the number of deaths and horrible suffering in a single day is incompatible with any sort of kind or loving God. 27,000 deaths of children under 5. Unfathomable suffering.
You cannot come up with any definition of omnibenevolent that you want.
Here's the common sense definition of God as "all-good". God is the source of all that we recognoze as good. In fact we say that God is the source of all Being. Therefore God cannot be evil in any way, for whether an evil is moral or physical, it is properly understood in terms of what should be there but is not. A thing is good of its kind
(and the qualification is important) if it succeeds in being that kind to the fullest. It is bad if it fails.
Now there can be no question of failure on the part of the Creator; God is
to the fullest. And insofar as goodness is oone with perfect being, God is therefore perfect good.
God is perfectly good in Himself. We are good only so far as we perfectly cooperate with that goodness that is in Him. God, because of His love for us and free will cannot force us to act contrary to our wills despite His desire for us to act in cooperation with His goodness. By doing so he would destroy our wills and in effect destroy how He created us, and act contrary to Love.
He can compell us no more than a parent can compell their drug-addicted son or daughter to go into rehab-through Love and understanding and by informing them of their self-destructive ways. It STILL boils down to free-will; the addict still has to make the choice to change(to repent
and do the good they know they ought to do. God, as a loving Father, informs us the Bible. He informs us by showing us the mistakes our forerunners made and gives us the perfect example of self-giving love through the example of His perfect divine Son.
So we have demonstrated that "omnibenevolence" when referring to God means the perfect goodness of God in Himself.
So when you reflect upon the proper definition then it seems my original question still stands.
Lastly, the God of the OT is the exact same God of the NT.
You commit the same errors as I did when I was an atheist.
1) you, understandably but albeit ignorantly, place your false understandings on the text. When you read the OT you read it with a lack of reference. You listen, but you do not hear.
2) you fail to recognize the persistence of sin. You see sin's punishment as something arbitrary and posited instead of something intrinsic to the act itself.
3) because of your ideology you place material reality over and above all else. In other words you place something temporary and finite as more important than what is eternal.
1) Your point is unclear, other than your simple assertion that my understandings are false. I've read the pentatuach many times with many scholars.
Which really means nothing. Protestant scholars even misunderstand because they read their theology into the text. How do you know that you aren't making the same mistake?
The most obvious mistake is that you keep referring to the "innocents" of the ancient times yet you seem to ignore the clear fact that the Bible describes that every generation from Adam on persisted and even grew in sin from one generation to the next. From fratracide and patricide, to incest, polygamy, and homosexuality, even human sacrifice(adults and infants), & ritual prostitution.
It makes me wonder, that is if you know the pentateuch so well, how you can expect any generation following would have some miraculous change of heart and the whole society-or even the world- all of a sudden repent of the lives and acts and even worship of their fathers before them and turn back to the God they spurned. I can understand that it may take a great faith than you may be used to to see that a temporary death is a mercy when compaired to an eternal death.
Maybe as much as I see now that it, at least to me, takes a greater faith to see this world as it is, and know that it ought to be better(which itself presumes a knowledge of Something that is supremely perfect), and yet remain an atheist. Because to see this world as its is and call it "proof" and say "there is no God" seems also to accept a notion that the world is destined to remain as evil as it is now or worse, and then to live and die without any hope of anything changing.
2) I'm talking about millions of toddlers and infants who haven't sinned at all. You think their suffering and death is justifiable. I claim it is not.
3) I do emphasize the natural world, as I disbelieve in supernatural realms. I don't think heaven justifies the suffering of the infants who died.
As long as you disbelieve in "supernatural realms" while presupposing materialism you're begging the question. At best you can only assert a certitude for the non-existence of heaven, you cannot demonstrate or prove it.
I have no right to claim anything as "justifiable", I can only read that it happened, accept it as history, and presume in faith that the God of justice, love and mercy knew what He was doing. The same as you have no right to say that it was unjustifiable because there is no possible way you can know that with certainty.
You can no more make the assumption about an infants guilt or innocence than you or I can presume any adult's guilt or innocence. You cannot possibly know that with any certainty either. Because such a judgement would necessarily require that you have the ability to see every end to every choice made by every person from the beginning to the end of time.
-IOW, you would have to be God.
You have no way of claiming anyone "innocent" mo matter how much you presume it. You're simply begging the question. Even if allowed to live you have no way of knowing what their life would become, at best you can only presume.
Tens-of-thousands of people suffered and went to their deaths with the belief and confidence that heavens's existence and blessedness fully justified their present pain and deaths. These were the Christian martyrs. They wents to their deaths with songs of joy on their lips because they knew their volutary suffering and deaths would bring about greater good.
If you don't think heaven is better then life on earth then I pity you, seriously. But I understand, because while everyone presumes to know what hell will be like not many people have considered what heaven will be like. I've aske many protestants the question, "what do you thnk you will do in heaven?" and I get various subjective answers from the pious(I'll get to be with Jesus all I want) to the funny(a never-ending Longhorn vs Sooner football game).
If you think that eternal life full of happiness, peace, joy, and love is in no way preferrable to this life full of pain, frustration, and empty pursuits then I really feel sorry for you.